The Call of Abraham

I will probably say this again:  This is my favorite Old Testament Bible story.  I love the call of Abraham because the story is so simple and so amazing at the same time.  For me, this is where the Bible story begins to get interesting; everything so far builds up to this moment where God simply calls one man, asks him to go somewhere, and promises him that he will be a blessing to others:

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.”

Abraham is the first of a great nation of believers who will listen to God’s call, who will learn to walk by faith, not by sight.  Maybe I’ve read too many Library posters:  as Bible readers the land we are encouraged to explore is mapped out for us in a book.  As we journey through God’s Holy Word, we will be changed and shaped and become the kind of person that God can use to bless others.  Maybe it will be in simple ways and maybe in ways we don’t even know, but I feel certain that when we are immersed in God’s Word, it opens us up to be an instrument of God’s love.  This is the call we still receive today:  Go where I show you to go and I will bless you to bless others.

Building on my recent review of page prep options, I thought I’d share how I use the products in my Bible.  First I put down a clear coat of Dina Wakely’s Clear Gesso.  On this particular page, I had some bad shaddowing, so I also put down two coats of Faber Castell’s white gesso in the margins, which reduced the distracting marks:

Then I painted and stamped away!  If you look really closely, you’ll notice a little smudging on the word “show.”  When I first wrote out the word “show”, I spelled it “swow” (UGG!  Mistakes happen!)–I was also able to use the Faber Castell white gesso as white out, too, to fix the mispelling.





Getting to Know Page Prep Options

Warning:  This could be the most boring post ever!  (This is basically a review of clear paint.)  But figuring out how to prep Bible pages seems to be a common challenge, so I thought I’d test out some different options.  Page prep is not needed for many art supplies, but it does greatly expand what supplies you can use, and it also helps many supplies work better.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve had my art supplies out on the kitchen counter.  I tried 10 different page prep products and tested my favorite art supplies out on them (mostly while waiting for the water to boil and the onions to sauté!).  My husband has been very patient and kind with me regarding the mess; it’s been a more fun project than I expected (and a complete abuse of the concept of multi-media!!!).


  • What it is:  Primer
  • Why it is great for Bible Journaling:  It prevents bleedthrough; it strengthens the page; it gives the surface of the page a little more texture (or tooth). It provides a good surface for most art supplies.
  • Recommended brands: Prima Art Basics Clear and Dina Wakely Clear Gesso

Artists use gesso on canvas or wood before painting with oil or acrylics.  Originally it came in only white, but now you can get it in clear or black.  For centuries, it was made from a mix of calcium and animal glue; Liquitex made the first acrylic gesso in 1955.

Gesso looks a lot like paint and can be applied to the page any way you would apply paint:  foam brush, regular brush, credit card, foam applicator, etc.  You can experiment and see what works for you.  I use a cheap foam brush and then smooth out any brush marks with my fingers.  Gesso dries pretty quickly—like acrylic paint.  I put down two coats, just to make sure I don’t miss a spot.  You can put gesso on the whole page or mask off the text and just paint the margins (as in the picture below).  The page will wrinkle at first, but it will flatten out once the Bible has been closed.  Note:  When buying gesso, if it does not say “clear gesso” then assume it is white!  Clear is best for most Bible journaling applications.


Gel Medium:

  • What it is:  A clear acrylic dispersion
  • Why it is great for Bible Journaling:  It prevents bleedthrough and provides a smooth surface for writing.
  • Recommended brand: Liquitex matte clear gel medium

Gel medium is often used by artists with acrylic paints to broaden the technical capabilities of the paint.  It extends the drying time of paint and it comes in a variety of thicknesses and properties.  It can also be used as glue for collage projects and even for a pretty cool image transfer technique (which I have not tried, but would like to!).  It can also be applied any way that you would apply paint.  It takes a little longer to dry than gesso.

Mod Podge:

  • What it is:  An all-in-one glue, sealer, finish.
  • Limitations: It prevents bleedthrough for many pens, but many art supplies do not seem work well on top of Mod Podge.

I just included Mod Podge in the mix because there have been questions on the Journaling Bible Community about how it would work, and I happened to find two small bottles in the Target dollar section and thought, why not?

Page Prep Products Reviewed

  1. Prima Art Basics Clear Gesso
  2. Dina Wakely Clear Gesso
  3. TriArt Clear Gesso
  4. Liquitex Clear Gesso
  5. Liquitex Matte Gel Medium
  6. Homemade Gesso
  7. Faber Castell Gesso
  8. Glossy Mod Podge
  9. Matte Mod Podge
  10. Faber Castell Gel Mediuim

Art Supplies Tested



  1. Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils
  2. Crayola Water Colors
  3. Artist Loft Water Colors
  4. Koi Water Colors
  5. Kuretake Water Colors
  6. NeoColor IIs
  7. Faber Castell Water Color Pencils
  8. Faber Castell Gelatos
  9. Liquitex Heavy Body Acrylic Paint
  10. Tombow Dual Brush Markers
  11. Staz-On Ink
  12. A Black Sharpie
  13. A pencil
  14. Pigma Graphic 1 pen

Conclusion:  All the products successfully prevented bleedthrough.  None of the products were a disaster for me.  My favorite page prep product was Dina Wakely’s Clear Gesso.  All the art supplies worked well on the page prepped with this gesso, and I would give it a slight edge over Prima Art Basics Clear Gesso because it was so easy to erase pencil marks from the surface of the page.  Prima Art Basics Clear Gesso is a very close second.  The homemade gesso was my third favorite, believe it or not!  I’ve heard many complaints about Liquitex clear gesso because it is gritty and eats pens, but I found that I really loved using it together with Inktense pencils.  The Liquitex Matte Gel Medium provided the best surface for writing with microns and was especially good for stamping.  TriArt Clear gesso was not a favorite; it was hard on the Mircron pens and pencil marks did not erase.  The Faber Castell gesso is great in all ways, but it’s white.  Personally, I use it to cover up bleedthrough on the backside of pages.  It’s a fabulous concealer!  The ModPodge products and the FaberCastell Gel Medium were my least favorites.

The Liquitex, Faber Castell, and Mod Podge products are available at most craft stores.  (The Liquitex products are with the acrylic paint; the Mod Podge with the glue; and the Faber Castell with the paper crafts products/gelatos).  The PrimaArt Basic and Dina Wakely products can be ordered through Amazon or through any provider of art supplies.

I’ll share my test pages below.  For obvious reasons, I did not want to conduct this test in my Bible, so I used a dictionary instead.  I just looked up all the words in one of my favorite verses.  I hope this post encourages you to take your creativity to the Bible boldly!

First I tried the Prima Art Basics Clear Gesso.  I’ve been using this for a few months and have found that I really enjoy the product and being able to use nearly all basic art supplies with confidence.  The only thing that I find slightly annoying is that pencil marks do not easily erase once the surface has been prepared with gesso.



Up next, I tried the Dina Wakely Clear Gesso.  It has a texture more like clear lemon curd than paint, but I love it.  Everything worked great and pencil marks erased easily, which made me happy.



Next I tried TriArts Clear Gesso.  For the most part, it was ok.  The surface was fairly smooth.  After writing quite a bit with micron pen on the surface, my pen started to get a bit clogged and dried out.  This wouldn’t be my first choice.



I was expecting to really hate the Liquitex clear gesso because I’ve read so many complaints about it.  It is gritty and my micron pens really didn’t like the surface too much.  What surprised me was how much Inktense pens loved the slightly gritty texture.  It was a little addictive.  Seriously, I could have done the whole page in Inktense pencils, but I wanted to try some other art supplies, too.



I have heard many people say that their favorite page prep option is Liquitex Matte Gel Medium.  If you primarily like to write with pens and use stamped images, this would probably be the best choice.  I found that water colors wanted to float on the surface a bit, but they worked.



I tried a homemade gesso.  Here’s the very easy recipe:


  • 3 tablespoons Elmer’s glue (not school glue–just regular glue)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water.

I found the recipe here.  Honestly, I had no complaints about this.  The mixture was a little bit more wet than the professionally prepared products and took a little longer to dry.  It was super easy to make from readily available ingredients…



The Faber Castell gesso is white, which means it’s not the best product to use over a whole Bible page.  It would make the text hard to read.  It’s my favorite product to use on the backside of any page where I have bleedthrough!  It is somewhat transparent and it blends nicely with the slightly cream pages of my Journaling Bible.



I tried Glossy ModPodge.  I didn’t have any trouble with the page being tacky and sticking to the adjacent page.  I just painted the one page, however.  I was really surprised that so many art supplies look faded when used on top of the ModPodge.  The page had a very glossy, slick feel to it.  The Micron ink wanted to smudge and smear.026


The Mod Podge Matte finish was a better choice…



Finally, I tried the Faber Castell Gel Medium.  This product took a long time to dry and produced a very slick surface. Water color paint wanted to just float on the surface.


Finally for comparison purposes, I show you an unprepared page…


I didn’t show the back pages of the prepared pages because honestly there was not much to show.  They all did a great job of preventing bleedthrough.  The dictionary paper seemed slightly thicker, but the supplies that bledthrough the most were the same ones that tend to do so in my Bible (Crayola water colors, distress inks, Tombow Dual Brush Pens, and Sharpies, of course).  You can see how the Staz-on ink shadows a bit with the stamped circles.  What I discovered through my experiments is that many art supplies are just nicer to use on a primed page; it’s not just about preventing bleedthrough.


Let me know if there’s a page prep product that I should test!  Or if you have any questions.  I can always update this post!


The Tower of Babel

When I read the story of the Tower of Babel from the perspective of a modern American, I wonder what God would think of our skyscrapers, our trip to the moon, the Internet, and out attempt to overcome the language barrier with technology.  Seriously, when I read God say “They are one people and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do.  And nothing that the purpose to do will now be impossible”, I could imagine similar words coming from an American political candidate, and the thought pops in my head:  “Great, let’s end cancer!!!”  What could be wrong with a people being able to achieve their highest aspirations?  I think my reading of the story is colored by living in an era of pretty amazing progress.  My grandmother lived from 1913 to 2013.  Whenever I visited with her during her last years of life, she would always say:  “Oh, Sally, the things I have seen over my lifetime.  There’s never been a time like it.”  My first pass at reading the story served as a reminder that my faith is in God, not human progress.  I was reminded of some of the fragility of our recent achievements.

The second time I read the story, I focused on the word “bricks,” which made me read it from the perspective an Israelite around the campfire in the desert after escaping Egypt, wondering why bricks were ever invented!  I could imagine his relief that the God who brought the Israelites out of Egypt was not a fan of big building projects.  I got a little curious about the Nimrod, mentioned in Genesis 10:8.  The Bible says simply that he was descended from Ham and that he was “the first on earth to be a mighty man.  He was a mighty hunter before the Lord.”  I learned that traditionally Nimrod was associated with the Tower of Babel as the project organizer and that he was considered an evil tyrant.  The pattern of an evil ruler, a giant building project that fails to find favor with God, and the call of Abraham (which is coming up next!) sets up a pattern that we will see again with Moses in Egypt.  And as I read about Nimrod, I learned that there are lots of Jewish folk songs and extra-biblical literature that build upon this common pattern.

If I focus on God as a loving father, I don’t see the confusion of languages as a punishment at all.  I see God helping humanity spread out and find smaller communities where they can experience more intimate, caring human relationships—helping us overcome our tendency to settle and get lost in the crowd.  Maybe living in big towers isn’t always the best option for humans.

When I read this from the perspective of the prophets, I hear the voice of Isaiah:  “The haughty looks of man shall be brought low, and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.”  (Isaiah 2:11)  Pride goes before the fall.

When I read this from a Christian perspective, I think of how God promised the Apostles at Pentecost that language would be no barrier to God’s awesome project of spreading the love of Christ.  God’s love breaks all language barriers down.

As I thought about how I wanted to draw my Tower of Babel, I imagined something inspired by M.C. Escher.  I found his illustration of the Tower of Babel.  I thought if I could just borrow his use of vantage point and horizon, I can make my own tower, but I found when I did that, the tower looked a lot like his.  The math seemed to drive the drawing.  It was still a good exercise in perspective for me!








Pondering Martin Luther

I haven’t given too much thought to Martin Luther since learning about the Protestant reformation in high school, about 25 years ago.  As I read his commentary on Noah and the Flood, I was mostly just dazzled by his thoughtful and spiritually edifying reading of the story.  There were times I was amused, especially when he criticized the wordiness and repetition and internal conflict of the story, which he attributed to the troubled state of Moses telling such a horrifying tale.  (The same frustrations drove me to separate the tale into two separate versions of the same story in an Excel spreadsheet!)  Part of his writing seems outdated in light of our more scientific understanding of the world today.  And part of his writing was downright troubling:  it is peppered with digs at Catholic and Jewish writers, which is tiresome at best, and deeply disturbing at worst in light of how history unfolded in his country during World War II.

I was pondering what to make of the man Martin Luther?  On the one hand, Luther’s legacy inspired the great Protestant saint, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who opposed Nazi dictatorship and gave us the Christian classics Life Together and The Cost of Discipleship.  On the other hand, some of Luther’s writings were used as propaganda for the Nazis. Martin Luther’s love for God and the Bible, led to many positive reforms in the Roman Catholic church and also to the whole Christian protestant movement, which helped shape my own experience of what it means to be saved by grace through faith.  Honestly, Martin Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” is one of my favorite hymns.  And yet a Bible verse that popped in my mind as I continued reading his commentary on the Flood:  “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20)  As someone raised in the Presbyterian church under the influence of John Calvin, I was simply led to pray:

O God, human nature is corrupt, from the least to the greatest among us.  If we are capable of anything good, it is only by your Spirit and to your glory.  The evil we do is an ongoing sign of our fallen nature.  When evil is done by us, your heart grieves.  Thank you for your son Jesus, who took our sin upon the cross.  By your Holy Spirit, teach us to be instruments of your love.

It seems everything about Martin Luther was writ large.  The cautionary tale of Martin Luther is that when we spread our love for God and our passion for the Bible, it’s important to do so with charity for all, even for those who disagree with us.  What seems acceptable to criticize today may look different with the passage of time.  After reflecting on Martin Luther’s life and legacy, my response is simply to make this resolve:  In my own humble attempts at sharing my thoughts, I will do my best not to spread disdain for any person or group of people.  I hope to only share God’s love, which I know deep inside is for everyone.  (I added a tip-in to an already busy page.)



A Lenten Reflection on the Flood

After illustrating the story of Noah and the Flood, I am increasingly having the sinking feeling I can’t possibly do justice to this story in a short blog post, especially as I keep reading about the story from different perspectives!  I’ve written about the story on the blog before.  I shared that it’s hard for me to read the Biblical account of this familiar story, but when I split the narrative into two similar stories, it was easier for me to follow.

My time spent in this story happened to fall in the first week of Lent.  For Christians who follow the revised common lectionary readings in church, the story of Noah and the Flood is the reading for the first week of Lent (every three years).  When I searched for “Lent” and “Noah and the Flood”, Google led me to many homilies by Catholic priests for the first week in Lent.  I read a few of these and was struck by how the Catholic priests read the story in a way that’s new to me, but common among each other.  The focus of each of their homilies was the Ark as God’s vehicle of salvation, prefiguring the [Catholic] church.  The message was:  “If you want to be saved, you have to stay in the ark.”  Through one of the homilies, I learned that the boat was an early symbol of the church and that St. Peter’s Barque is just another name for the Roman Catholic church.  The architecture of many churches is modeled after a boat; the “nave” is from the word “ship.”  It’s easy to make the connection:  The disciples fish for people, taking them through the waters of baptism to be saved and bringing them into the church.  I can appreciate this reading even if I feel a small protest:  Noah had faith in God, not the boat.

For Lent, a Bible Journaling friend suggested a Lenten Devotional called 40 Things to Give up for Lent by Phil Ressler, a Lutheran pastor.  During the first seven days of Lent, he suggests giving up fear of failure, our comfort zones, feelings of unworthiness, retirement, impatience, and people pleasing.  It’s easy to see Noah as a model of a person who had to give all these things up.  Since I happened to be reading a book by  a Lutheran, I found myself wondering if Martin Luther had a commentary on the flood narrative and how he would read the story.  As it turns out, he has a very long free commentary.  It was a surprisingly compelling read (despite Luther’s contempt for certain groups, which can be a bit troubling and distracting).  I felt the overall message of the commentary was consistent with what I little I know about Luther:

Therefore, Noah is a brilliant and admirable example of faith, who opposed the judgments of the world with an heroic steadfastness of mind in the assurance that he was righteous while the rest of the world was wicked.

Thinking back to Pastor Phil’s list:  Noah gave up fear of failure to follow God’s plan for building an ark.  After 500 years of chastity (Thank you Martin Luther for bringing this to my attention!), he married and had three boys even in the face of the wickedness around him and his knowledge of God’s plan to blot out everything living on the earth through a flood.  He was not a people-pleaser; he focused only on God’s instructions and found favor in the Lord.  He left his comfort zone and gave up impatience to board a boat with every living creature.  I can’t begin to imagine the terror during the terrible storm and patience it took to remain on a ship with so many animals for months after the storm abated.  He must have needed to let go of feelings of unworthiness for him and his family even as he saw destruction all around, as he waited for what must have seemed an eternity for God to remember him.

During a drive, where I had a few moments to ponder the story some more, I called my mother (a Presbyterian minister) to ask her to tell me the five points of Calvinism.  I could easily imagine Calvin checking these against the story of Noah and the Flood:

  • Total depravity: “Every inclination of their heart was evil.” Check
  • Unconditional election: It was God who chose Noah and his family.  Check
  • Limited atonement: Not everyone made it on the boat.  Check
  • Irresistible grace: What other choice did Noah have?  Check
  • Persistence of the Saints: Noah was above all else persistent in his faithfulness.  Check.

It’s kind of a more abstract reading of the story.  On Calvin’s last point, I could imagine an argument breaking out between Calvin and Luther and the problem of Ham’s apparent fall from grace.  I haven’t checked to see if Calvin has a commentary on the flood.

Other random thoughts:  Like Noah, Jesus was a carpenter and a builder.  They were both visited by a dove.  They both heard God’s voice proclaiming God’s favor.  They both suffered ordeals for 40 days.  In different ways, they both saved the human race through wood and water.  I’ve always thought of Noah as a fairly simple man, but reading Martin Luther’s telling of the story gave me new appreciation for the living sacrifice that Noah made.  Luther writes,

I have said that Noah was a virgin above all others; I may add he was the greatest of all martyrs.  Our so-called martyrs, compared with him, have infinite advantage in strength received from the Holy Spirit, by which death is overcome and all trials and perils are escaped.  Noah lived among the unrighteous for six hundred years, and like Lot at Sodom, not without numerous and dire perils and trials.

Both Noah and Jesus followed what Luther called “the Royal way”; they added nothing, changed nothing, and took nothing from the divine command and abided in the teachings of God.

Just an observation:  After reading the story of Cain and Abel, I wondered why God let Cain live.  All of Cain’s descendants were wiped out in the flood.  Noah was descended through Seth.  Noah carried the seed that God promised Eve would crush the serpent’s head.

And something I still wrestle with:  I think these are the hardest words in the Bible to read:  “God regretted that he made man and it grieved him to his heart.”  The words are especially heart-breaking coming so shortly after God’s creation of the universe in which he called everything good.  Martin Luther asked many of the same questions I do.  Despite nearly 500 years between us, I felt like I was listening to a contemporary speaking to me here:

If God foresees everything, why does the text say that now he first sees?  If God is wise, how can regret for having creating anything befall him?  Why did he not see this sin or depraved nature of man from the beginning of the world?  Why does the Scripture thus attribute to God such things as a temporary will, vision, and purpose?  Are not the purposes of God eternal and unalterable, incapable of being regretted?

I wasn’t completely satisfied with Luther’s resolution to some of these problems, but I wholeheartedly agree with his ultimate conclusion:

It is better and safer to stand at the manger of Christ, the man.  To lose one’s self in the labyrinths of divinity is fraught with greatest danger….For in his substance, God is unknowable, indefinable, inexpressible, though we may tear ourselves to pieces in our efforts to discern or portray him.

That’s probably enough of my wandering thoughts!!!  Here’s what found its way to my margins.  On Facebook, in the Journaling Bible Community, I saw a painting of Noah and the Ark done by Hanna Staudinger that captured me, and I asked her permission to make it a tip-in for my Bible.  Her art can be found on her Facebook page.  There are a few very simple ideas below:  Gelatos over hand cut stencils for the heart and the ark, colored pencils, stamps, stickers, borrowing art you love.  And everyone can paint a rainbow!!!


Getting to Know Gelatos

I have a bit of a confession to make.  I ordered the Illustrated Faith devotional kit, “Make It Count” because I thought the prompts would give me the chance to learn to use my gelatos.  I really wasn’t prepared for God to speak to me so intimately through the devotional.  I’ll still share some ideas on using gelatos, but my prayer is that the verses selected by Maggie Massey will touch your heart as they have touched mine.


What they are:  Pigment in a tube

Why they are great for Bible Journaling:  They provide bright, fun color and don’t bleed.  They can be used wet or dry.  They play nicely with other art supplies.  They are remarkably versatile.

Page prep needed:  None for most applications, but some ideas work better with gesso.

Ideas:  Background color for stamps or writing.  Great to use with stencils.

The most frequently asked question about gelatos seems to be:  Whether you can write over them or whether its best to write first.  Right after you lay the color down, the gelatos can leave a waxy residue on your pen (which just scribbles off).  That being said, once the color has rested for awhile (ten or fifteen minutes), I’ve used micron pens and had no troubles.  You can also write first and then put the color over the ink.  The only drawback is the color has to be smudged on, so you want to make sure you pen ink is good and dry so that it doesn’t smugde, too.  And if you plan to use water with the gelatos, you have to make sure that your pen ink is permanent, not water-activated.

Another question that comes up is whether or not you have to seal the gelatos.  When you are working with gelatos, flakes of gelatos tend to go in unexpected places and leave little streaks, but once the gelatos have rested, the pigment stops moving around.  If you have any concerns, just place a sheet of paper between your Bible pages.  You’ll find that the color doesn’t move from one page to the other.

I feel like I learned a lot about myself from learning to use gelatos, too!  First, I am not all that intuitive about art supplies as my first attempt to make a color chart with gelatos demonstrates, and second, as an artist I kind of prefer art supplies that are more precise.  I’m not sure that I’m the best person to demonstrate gelatos for Bible journaling, but there’s lots of ideas below.  Gelatos can be used for just about any way you would like to add color.  If you add water they become water colors.  If you mix them with white gesso, they become opaque paint.  You can stamp with them, color with them, blend them.  But they are not always my first choice for all these applications.  My favorite way to use them in my Bible is definitely as color rubbed on dry over stencils with a make-up sponge.


My second attempt went much better.  Typically when you lay down the color, you will want to smooth it out afterwards with your fingers or a make-up sponge…


I LOVE looking at fun, messy art, and I tend to make big messes when I create, but the art I make is more constrained.  So the most natural way for me to use gelatos is to apply them over a stencil with a make-up brush.  This way the color goes where I expect it to go!

The first prompt was to reflect on the great things God has done for me personally and to think about how to respond.  I first wrote everything out in pencil, then in micron pen.  I stamped the words “cheerfully serve” and “share love”.  Then I put color down on a plate and used a make-up sponge to pick up the color and apply it over a hand-cut stencil to the page.

great things

The final result gave some shape and color to the stamped images…


Up next is a ridiculously simple idea.  The gold gelato makes a great tool for adding a distressed look to the edge of the paper.  In this passage I returned to Colossians, a passage I’ve visited twice before.  I was grateful because the verses Colossians 3:23-24 have always guided me in my career, so I simply wrote them down and put my standard work prayer on the back.  I’m not sure why this passage has become a place I’ve poured out prayers over just about every aspect of my life, blogging, Bible journaling, motherhood, and work.  Some passages, I just keep revisiting.  I love tip-ins!!!

work heartily

The next prompt encouraged me to be more adventuresome.  The suggested verse was 1 Corinthians 15:58 (“God loves a cheerful giver.”), but as I reflected on the whole passage, the words that spoke to me most was the incredible promise that we can give freely, knowing that we are sustained by God’s grace:  “sufficient in all things at all times”.  One super-fun thing about gelatos is that they drip when wet.  This technique works best with gesso on the page, so I first prepped the margins with gesso.  Then I figured out where I wanted the stamps to go and used masking tape to make off areas where I did not want drips.  Then I laid down some color with the gelatos and held my Bible upright as I spritzed it with water until the color dripped.

covered in grace

Here’s how the final picture turned out…(for the pink bunny I mixed shaved gelatos with gesso.)


The next invitation took me to Deuteronomy 13:4.  As I read this passage, I was struck by the instructions that we are to follow God’s ways regardless of the culture around us.  This seemed like a good place to use my stamp “God has not called you to fit in.”  I practiced stamping with the gelatos, but had trouble getting consistent results.  Ultimately, I just decided to use the gelatos as background color for a black stamp…


The final result…


For then next invitation, I tried out a simple stencil.  I first put down a layer of “banana” and then just colored the edges of the plastic stencil with the “blood orange” gelato and then used a make-up sponge to push the color into the area where I wanted it to go.  I love the promise that whatever we do for the Lord, we can be assured that our work is not in vain.  This seemed to be the perfect place to use the “Make it count” stamp that came with the devotional.

I came to another passage that would require a tip-in.  One fun thing about gelatos is that they show up well even against dark paper, so I simply stenciled the verse onto the page.  I found that I had to clean the stencil often with a wet wipe to avoid getting little flecks of metallic green gelato everywhere.


I got a little braver and went for more of an art-journal-type look, just using stencils to layer the colors.  As I worked on this page, I was reminded of the importance of doing things with a whole heart, not just going through the motions, but putting my whole self, heart and mind into what I do.


For this next technique, you have to put gesso down on the page first.  You first color the area with the gelato.  Then use a wetwipe over a stencil to remove the color…

blessed to give

The final page…


The next prompt took me to 1 Peter.  I love the whole passage and decided to simply write it out on a tip-in.  What I most love is most is that promise that whoever or whatever we are called by God to serve, we do so with the strength of God.  I just find this comforting, especially when it feels so often that life and the to do list requires a heroic response.

One technique I’ve seen demonstrated with gelatos is to shave some of the stick and mix it with water to create an ink spray.  I don’t think this would work too well on the Bible pages; it’s just too wet of a process.  There are better ways to get the sprayed effect in the Bible, but I was happy with how this tip-in turned out…



I think this might be my favorite page.  I just used the cherry red gelato and painted over the color with a little water.  (The lettering is not a stamp.  I scanned a picture included in the devotional, reduced it to size, and traced it.)


This next verse was formative for me in my life as a Christian.  There are times when serving does rock, when it feels wonderful to be in the right place at the right time for others.  And then there are times, where it is downright hard, and you still have to be willing to say, “I love you Jesus!”  For me this verse speaks about a willingness to surrender my life, to follow Jesus, even when it means the path of the cross.  On this page, I put gesso down first and used water to blend the gelatos rather than my finger.


This page came together quickly.  I painted gesso onto the margins.  Then, I simply traced the tracing template in the devotional and added gelatos as background color.


This next passage took me back to the very first invitation in the devotional:  to consider all the great things God has done to me.  This verse brought me to my knees.  (I just used gelatos over a lettering stencil)…


The next teaching of Jesus felt like a brand new teaching to me.  I guess I’m from the school of thought that when it comes to charity, you should not let your left hand know what the right hand is doing.  And that whatever good I may do is the Holy Spirit working through me to do good works prepared in advance by God.  But I don’t think Jesus is necessarily talking about an even exchange for material goods.  As I worked on this passage, I reflected on all the love, forgiveness, encouragement, and appreciation that others have shared with me and was able to see that what’s easiest for me to share (THANKS TO THE GRACE OF GOD!!!) does come full circle.

Speaking of coming full circle.  For this last passage, I once again used a handcut stencil.  I think this still is my favorite way to use gelatos.  I photographed my measuring cup, shrunk it to size, printed it on cardstock, and cut it out.  And as much fun as I’ve had with gelatos over the past couple of weeks, I was really craving my microns and colored pencils–really, nice sharp colored, pencils, too!!!


The final page….


If you happen to have gelatos, I hope you are encouraged to try out some new ways of using them.  And I pray that you may know and always grow in your appreciation for God’s all-sufficient grace.





Cain and Abel

For me this story has always raised so many more questions than it answers.  I can almost retell the story simply through my many questions (sometimes my brain just starts spinning!):

  • Should the story be read as the beginning of tension between roaming shepherds (keepers of the sheep) and agrarian society (workers of the ground)?
  • Why did God have no regard for Cain’s offering? Part of me imagines the grain offering turning to ashes, but Abel’s offering going up in a spectacular flame!  But I wonder:  Both grain and animal offerings are part of the priestly tradition?  Was it a quality difference?  Was it the person?  Was it the faith in which the offering was made?  Jesus lists Abel as among the righteous (Matthew 23:35).  Paul suggests it was Abel’s faith that made this difference (Hebrews 11:4).
  • When Cain gets angry, God gives him this warning: “Why are you angry and why has your face fallen?  If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door.  Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”  What are we to make of this beastly description of sin?
  • How did Cain kill Abel? Why?  Was he jealous of God’s favoritism?
  • How could Cain be so bold and sarcastic toward God? How could he respond to God’s question about Abel’s location:  “Am I my brother’s keeper?” after what he had done?
  • How does Abel’s blood cry out to God? It makes me ponder this:  Abel’s blood is a witness against Cain, but the promise of Christianity is that the blood of Jesus Christ will cleanse us from our sin if we confess (unlike Cain!).  I had in mind St. Paul’s words in Hebrews 12:24:  “to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”  A friend suggested another interpretation altogether: Abel’s blood crying out to God is a sign that God hears our sorrows and our pain—even if it can’t explain why God lets these things happen.
  • Cain’s punishment was simply that he should be cursed from the ground and that he should be a fugitive and wanderer. Why was Cain allowed to live?
  • Who was Cain afraid of when he said “whoever finds me shall kill me?” Why did God offer Cain protection?  What was the mark of Cain?
  • Where does Cain find a wife?
  • How does a wanderer and fugitive build the first city? What are we to make of this dichotomy:  Cain commits the first murder, but he builds a city and his descendants bring us music and metalworking?  Is this just Cain’s attempt to “do well”?  Does Cain’s crime and his accomplishments represent both the horror and possibility of humanity?  Can his accomplishments overcome the wrong that he has done?  Can any of these things return him to God’s presence?  I keep thinking of a quote from Augustine:  “Our hearts are restless until they rest in God.”
  • How did Adam and Eve react? What was it like for Eve to be the first mother to lose a son?  I imagine the death of her son, was worse than facing her own impending death.
  • Why is the most brutal violence often between those who are most close? Within families?  Within countries?  Within people who share essentially the same faith who fight over relatively minor differences?  My heart turns to the civil war taking place in Syria, the very place where tradition says Cain killed Abel.
  • Why does God showering approval on one brother make the other brother want to kill him? Is this a warning to God’s chosen people?  Or to Jesus when God declares “This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased”?  Why is there religious persecution?  Was Abel the first martyr?
  • Is there a relationship between the brotherly tensions between Cain and Abel and the brothers to come in the Genesis narrative: Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers?  Isaac and Ishmael, despite their differences are able to come together to bury their father.  Jacob and Esau share a loving embrace after their troubles.  Joseph forgives his brothers.  Can we find hope in this progression?

It’s a puzzling story.  I can’t recall any memorable sermons about this Biblical passage.  Unlike the story of Adam and Eve, it’s not as frequently woven into the theology of my particular faith tradition, other than as a further piece of evidence regarding our fallen human nature.  Most often I’ve heard the “Sin is crouching at the door” reference, but there is so much food for thought in this story!!!  The most memorable statement that I’ve ever heard about this passage came from a Rabbi in a show that I watched on the History Channel many, many years ago:  What if the entire Bible is God’s response to Cain’s sarcastic question:  “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  Isn’t this a fundamental human question for us all to answer?

I happily found this video again on Youtube.  Watching it again, I was most touched by Rabbi David F. Wolpe’s final comment in the video.  Discussing the birth of Seth, Adam and Cain’s youngest brother, he says:

“When Adam and Eve go ahead and conceive another child, it rather reminds me of population studies that show how the birthrate booms after a war.  It’s a way of saying that despite there’s been this terrible destruction we still essentially believe in the goodness of life and the worthiness of God’s world.  In that sense, it’s one of the first statements of faith in the Bible and one of the deepest.”

Here’s what found its way into my margins…